1 Chronicles 16:27.
Listen to “Songs for Joy”
1. Joy and Peace in Believing:
2. Shout For Joy, All Ye Upright in Heart!:
3. Strength and Joy are in His Place:
From the Artist:
Joy is one of the deepest words we have in our language. Whether in general linguistic terms, or in a theologically-specific context, this word represents both a concept and a reality simultaneously. The tragedy is that many of us learn the concept of joy, but few of us experience the reality of joy. Jesus Christ is more than the real “Joy Giver” – He is the ONLY Joy Giver and this truth is at the heart of the gospel.
C.S. Lewis talked about being ‘surprised by joy’ and there is a sense in which joy trumps happiness as a paradigm in much the same way that justice trumps fairness as a paradigm. If God was merely ‘fair’ then we would each get what we are entitled to – which is eternal death for our sins. But God is more than fair – He is just, and this concept of justice is in fact relevant to this mini-discourse on joy. Why? Because the end of the gospel is the reality that sin will end forever one day when Jesus returns! And all the prophecies from the Old Testament about the restoration of justice to this world that were partially fulfilled with the first coming of Jesus will be fulfilled in entirety.
This is the conceptual framework that undergirds these Songs for Joy. Each of these songs is in response to a verse, and each verse contains two serious elements (one of which, surprise surprise, is joy):
#1 Joy; Peace
#2 Joy; Uprightness of Heart
#3 Strength; Joy
#1 is a tune that is directly written to words in Romans 15:13, part of which reads, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope…” Now, joy and peace are not saccharine ideas, and the improvisatory journey around what is essentially a very simple theme is reflective of the spiritual reality that it is very easy to talk about the peace and joy which the gospel is supposed to bring – but so many Christians don’t have much peace – we have learnt a very Christianised ‘busyness’ to hide the burning lack of life-changing peace in our hearts. But there IS a joy and real peace in Jesus, the only true source of hope, and He is with us through all the twists and turns.
#2 is maybe the most theologically important of the three pieces. Many people want to be ‘made whole’ but wholeness is utterly impossible without holiness, and if there is one deadly cancer in the Church, it is that too many of those engaged in all forms of worship to God (public and private) are not ready to “be holy, even as God is holy”. We cannot make ourselves holy, but we can choose to live a life of faith and to pursue righteousness with God’s help. Real joy is only possible when you are as upright in your heart as you know how to be and when you and God are on good terms. So there is something more prophetic in this – it points to a truth deeper than that of merely ‘shouting for joy’ and the recurring chord-melody is actual melody-set-to-text (from Psalm 32:11) – hopefully you can hear the piano ‘singing in parts’ (as it were)!
#3 was written as an improvisor’s response to the idea of strength and joy being found in His place – the sanctuary of the most High God. What an incredible idea from 1 Chronicles 16:27, (which also tags to Nehemiah 8:10). So this piece has more of a ‘concept’ (that word again) framework as opposed to the type of outline you would find on a lead sheet or other form of music manuscript. And as both jazz musician and theologian, that is one of my favourite ways to work.
I am increasingly fond of explaining to people who struggle to reconcile jazz with Christianity that as an improvising musician “it’s about more than just playing jazz; it’s about playing faith.” I wish that my technique was better but deficiencies notwithstanding, I offer this humbly and thank you for making time to listen.
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